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“Understanding Bernie Bros”: Right-Wing Hillary-Haters Seeking To Foment Discord Among Democrats

Sometimes I think I learned more politically relevant lessons playing ball than anywhere else. If nothing else, sports teach realism: what you can do, what you can’t, how to deal with it. Also, what’s the score, how much time’s left, and what’s the best tactic right now?

It helps to know the rules, and it’s important to keep your head. Bad plays are inevitable, dumb plays less forgivable.

But here’s something else you learn playing ball: not everybody on your team is going to be your friend, just as people wearing different-colored shirts aren’t personal enemies.

Also, spectators can be fickle. Your most passionate fans can quickly turn into your opponent’s ally.

These are all useful concepts during an American primary election.

An athlete in his youth, Bernie Sanders appears to understand overwrought fans. His campaign’s apology to Hillary Clinton supporters harassed online by so-called “Bernie Bros,” angry young men given to coarse attacks upon anybody — especially women — supporting his rival was a class move.

“If you support @berniesanders,” Sanders aide Mike Casca tweeted from Iowa, “please follow the senator’s lead and be respectful when people disagree with you.”

Columnist Joan Walsh has called out the Bernie Bros’ behavior. “When I’ve disclosed that my daughter works for Clinton — in The Nation, on MSNBC, and on social media — we’ve both come in for trolling so vile,” she wrote “it’s made me not merely defensive of her. It’s forced me to recognize how little society respects the passion of the many young women — and men — who are putting their souls into electing the first female president.”

Walsh told BuzzFeed that while she didn’t blame Sanders, “it is disturbing to see such a misogynist strain in the male left. It’s not a new thing, but it’s tough to experience.”

Kathleen Geier, a contributor to The Nation and a Sanders supporter, concedes the Bernie Bros are definitely “doing harm to the cause. I haven’t seen people treat Obama supporters like this, or supporters of other male establishment candidates — just Hillary. So it’s definitely misogyny.”

Well, yes and no. See, I suspect many of these jokers are Internet trolls in the original sense: right-wing Hillary-haters seeking to foment discord among Democrats.

Anybody can pretend to be anything online. Anonymity encourages people to unmask their darkest impulses. Read the comments line to almost anything on the Internet about the Clinton-Sanders campaign.

Did a group of prominent women Senators and diplomats endorse Hillary?

“Their vaginas are making terrible choices!” writes one characteristically vulgar Sanders supporter. The discussion goes straight downhill from there.

Even in the relatively civilized precincts of The Guardian, commenters to a Jill Abramson column sympathetic to Clinton revel in nasty sexual insults:

“Yes, please tell me how Shillary is the nicest corporate oligarchical servant, and how she will lovingly sell out the people who voted for her to her banker masters, with a twinkle in her fellating eye.”

Another online philosopher opines that “she can’t be good for a nation if she wasn’t good enough for her husband.”

A third adds that “Hillary is a terrible campaigner and a much worse human being. She is thoroughly corrupt, dishonest, vile, vindictive, vengeful, condescending, etc.”

As somebody who’s gotten obscene, often threatening emails WRITTEN ALL IN IN CAPS for years, I can’t say I’m shocked. Recently a tough guy in Illinois speculated that being named “Eugene” made me a sissy; Noreen says Hillary’s a COMMIE BITCH. My photo makes her vomit.

All in a day’s work.

Anyway, maybe I’m looking in the wrong places, but I see no comparable venom towards Bernie Sanders. My own strongest reservation is that despite his admirable qualities, I’ve seen few signs of political realism in his campaign.

As baseball people say, there’s no such thing as a six-run home run. How otherwise sensible Democrats have persuaded themselves that a candidate preaching “revolution” and promising big tax increases can win come November in swing states like Ohio, Michigan, and Florida—places that have trended Democratic, but have Republican governors — is hard for me to grasp.

(Unless, of course, the GOP nominates a far-right Froot Loop like Ted Cruz, not a probability I’d want to gamble on.)

The Daily Banter’s Chez Pazienza sums up everything that needs to be said about “Bernie Bros,” make-believe and real: “if you’re a liberal who believes these things about Clinton — if you see her as anything other than a liberal Democrat who’s guilty of nothing more than being a politician with faults and with a plethora of enemies like every other on this planet, including Bernie Sanders — you’ve proven that the protracted smear campaign against this woman has worked. You prove that the GOP won a long time ago.”

Meanwhile, both candidates’ supporters would do well to recall that Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton voted together in the U.S. Senate 93 percent of the time.

 

By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, February 10, 2016

February 14, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Bros, Bernie Sanders, Democratic Primary Debates, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Don’t Overdo The Iowa Analysis”: There Are Probably Plenty Of Surprises To Come In The 2016 Race

The press seems to be “feeling the Bern.” And certainly feelin’ the Cruz.

First, Hillary vs. Bernie.

Be careful not to overdo the results from last night. Young, first-time caucus goers came close to carrying the day over the traditional, older attendees. According to the Des Moines Register poll Hillary Clinton was getting 65 percent of the older demographic (65+) and Bernie Sanders was getting 63 percent of the under 35 voters. Younger voters turned out, but the Clinton organization produced a narrow victory.

The “enthusiasm factor” was certainly important but remember this: Of all voters, 81 percent were still favorable to Clinton, while 82 percent were favorable to Sanders. Thus, Democrats were extremely positive towards both candidates.

But let me address the elephant in the room when it comes to Iowa. And it isn’t just the lack of diversity in the voting population, which many have mentioned. It is the fact that in the last Des Moines Register poll before the caucuses, 68 percent agreed with the following statement: “It would be OK to have a President who describes himself as a democratic socialist.”

Now, somehow I question whether that number – two-thirds of Democratic voters – will hold in many of the other primary states, especially the South and West.

In an earlier Des Moines Register poll this year, 43 percent of Democratic caucus goers identified themselves as socialist and 38 percent as capitalist. Again, such a large number certainly did bode well for Sanders. But despite the high turnout of young people and despite the very liberal bent of the caucus, Clinton still managed to emerge with a win. No small feat.

Will this allow Sanders to raise more and more money? Of course. Will it guarantee that this race will go on for several months? Probably. Will there be a lot more debates between these two candidates? Surely. Does this mean the Democrats are going to resemble a warring faction? Doubt it.

The spring primaries will give the Democrats a real chance to show the difference between a forward looking, progressive agenda that embraces economic fairness, tolerance of all citizens, openness to solving the immigration problem, serious education reform, equal rights and women’s rights – all in contrast to a Republican party that will take America backward.

A Clinton-Sanders contest will be good for the party, good for the general election and good for the country.

And, at the end of the day, Clinton will be nominated because she represents the mainstream of the Democratic party and can win in November and govern in January. Also, as the Gallup poll last year indicated, 50 percent of Americans said that “if their party nominated a generally well-qualified person for president who happened to be a socialist” they would not vote for him. This is a much higher “no vote” than someone who is gay or lesbian (24 percent), Muslim (38 percent), even an atheist (40 percent).

Socialism, big government and new taxes is not a viable platform despite the appeal of Sanders’ message. Convincing Americans to buy that platform would be like getting them to abandon their cell phones. Bernie would have to talk a lot more about entrepreneurship, innovation, capitalism and investment if he were to stand any chance.

The Republican upset of Donald Trump, meanwhile, proved the value of a superb and sustained statewide organization, plus the importance of motivating very conservative, evangelical, outsider voters. Cruz turned anger into action; Trump didn’t.

The conventional wisdom was that a huge Republican turnout – which is what happened – would benefit Trump. More than 180,000 Republicans turned out; in 2012 the turnout was 121,503. That is a huge jump and, though it was close, Cruz was victorious with 28 percent.

Big rallies, as was the case with the Democrats too, don’t necessarily translate into big victories. And Trump’s temper tantrum with the last Fox News debate was probably a bad move – the spoiled child syndrome doesn’t work too well in politics.

But don’t count Trump out and don’t think that this is going to be a particularly civil affair between Trump and Cruz. One big potential story coming out of the Iowa aftermath is that Cruz precinct captains allegedly announced in a number of the caucuses that Ben Carson was about to drop out and that they should look for another candidate. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, Cruz’s chairman, even tweeted that out on Monday night. Doesn’t sound like a very Christian thing to do to me.

So fasten your seat belt for this donnybrook. We will see what happens in New Hampshire, but Sen. Marco Rubio may be the big winner of the night for the Republicans. If he can emerge soon as the alternative to Trump and Cruz, he may be able to raise the funds and carry on into Super Tuesday and beyond. Remember that there are a host of winner-take-all states starting in mid-March that Rubio could position himself to sweep (Florida, for example) if he is the lone so-called “establishment” candidate to take on Trump and Cruz. In many, he wouldn’t need a majority of the vote and assuming Bush, Christie and Kasich are out after Super Tuesday there is a big, wide opening to fill.

Rubio did much better than the polls predicted and his seizing the national news with his speech before anyone else was a tactical coup. And for some, like poor Jeb Bush, who spent $2,884 per vote in Iowa, this was a night he would love to forget.

On to New Hampshire and beyond, with more surprises I’m sure!

 

By: Peter Fenn, Democratic Political Strategist and Head of Fenn Communications; U. S. News and World Report, February 2, 2016

February 4, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Presidential Primaries, Hillary Clinton, Iowa Caucuses | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Utopian Fantasy?”: Bernie Sanders’s Single-Payer Health Care Plan Failed In Vermont

When Sen. Bernie Sanders regales his campaign crowds with a portrait of The Way Things Are Going to Be, his “Medicare for All” program takes center stage. In a Sanders administration, the candidate promises, every man, woman, and child in America will share in a government-run, government-funded health-care system.

But the single-payer system that Sanders is evangelizing isn’t just a figment of progressive utopian fantasies. Single-payer health care has already been tried—and failed—in Sanders’s home state of Vermont, where the proposal collapsed under its own weight last year before it was ever implemented.

Deciding why it failed in Vermont is key to whether you buy into the candidate’s promise to extend the program nationwide.

According to critics, from The New York TimesPaul Krugman to USA Today’s editorial board, Sanders’s single-payer plan is something between a well-intentioned fool’s errand and a political pipe dream, an unrealistic idea that has been proven not to work in the senator’s own backyard.

But closer to home, activists say Vermont’s failure even to implement its plan for universal health care was a failing of political will, not the policy itself. In better hands, they say, the policy can still work. To know the difference, it’s important to understand how Vermont got so close to single-payer in the first place.

In 2011, the state’s Democrat-controlled legislature approved a government-run, government-financed health-care system for all Vermonters. The state’s new Democratic governor, Peter Shumlin, signed the bill into law after campaigning on a pledge to enact single-payer himself. A cost estimate of the program, known as Green Mountain Care, was ordered, but long delayed.

Elections came and went, including Shumlin’s own 2014 reelection, which was so close Vermont law required the final decision to go to the legislature after Shumlin failed to win a majority of the vote in November. As the state waited for the legislature to take up the election results, Shumlin announced that he would not pursue single payer after all when the long-awaited financial projections showed “the promise and the peril” of a single-payer system. The promise, of course, was a chance to give nearly every Vermonter reliable access to quality health care.

But the very real peril came in the cost for the program, an estimated $4.3 billion a year, almost the size of the state’s entire $4.9 billion budget. To make up for the $2 billion shortfall, taxes would have to go up, a lot. Businesses would see an 11.5 percent payroll tax increase, on top of whatever they chose to provide for employee health care, while individual income taxes could jump by up to 9 percent. The report recommended against moving forward “due to the economic shock and transition issues,” and Shumlin agreed.

“I wanted to fix this at the state level. And I thought we could,” Shumlin said in a statement issued with the financial report. But he called implementing single-payer health care in 2015 “unwise and untenable.”

Despite the ominous budget projections at the time, single-payer advocates now say they believe Shumlin’s decision was purely political.

“Right up to the last gubernatorial election, Gov. Shumlin was saying he was going to do everything he could to make single-payer health care a reality in the state. That was quite frankly why we didn’t run a candidate against him,” said Kelly Mangan, the executive director of the Vermont Progressive Party. “Almost immediately, he turned around and said, ‘Oh, yeah, we can’t afford single-payer health care. It’s not going to happen.”

Mangan described single-payer advocates today as “fatigued and very disheartened.” As Vermont’s state budget continues to be squeezed by Medicaid costs, she said the possibility of returning to the issue any time soon seems unlikely. She also worries that Vermont’s example will damage future prospects nationally. “I think it will have a ripple effect. People will use it as an excuse to do nothing by saying, ‘If they couldn’t do it there, then it can’t be done,’” she said.

Dr. Gerald Friedman, an economics professor at UMass-Amherst and a part-time Vermonter, has worked with Sanders to develop and calculate the cost of his plan and says the budget wasn’t the problem for the Vermont proposal. The governor was the problem.

“On the economics, it would have been cheaper, but the governor just lost the political will,” Friedman said.

But the professor acknowledged that any national health care proposal from Sanders would face the same political headwinds that Shumlin ran into. “It’s going to be a tough road, and Vermont is a lesson,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that it happened the way it did.”

Even with the Vermont debacle in the rearview mirror and Friedman’s own projections that Sanders’s “Medicare for All” would cost north of $14 trillion over 10 years, the politics of single-payer are still working for Sanders. The latest Kaiser poll showed 81 percent of Democrats favor a “Medicare for All” proposal, while 60 percent of independents favor it, too.

Clinton has dismissed Sanders’s proposal as unrealistic and a danger to the reforms that have already been enacted through the Affordable Care Act. That argument seems to be falling flat in New Hampshire, where the latest WMUR poll showed Sanders trouncing Clinton by nearly 30 points. But at least Clinton can count on some support when the campaign gets to Vermont. Gov. Shumlin, who will not run for reelection, has announced he’s with her.

 

By: Patricia Murphy, The Daily Beast, January 25, 2016

January 26, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Single Payer, Universal Health Care | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Just Being A Strong Conservative Doesn’t Help The Party”: Cruz And Rubio Engage In Battle For Nevada Mormons

Deep divisions among Nevada Republicans over a $1 billion tax increase pushed by the state’s Republican governor are helping to shape the battle between Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas to win this state’s presidential caucuses — the first nominating contest in the West.

Rubio’s backers are eagerly eyeing Nevada as they look for an early-voting state the candidate could win. Although Rubio is widely seen as one of the leading contenders for the GOP nomination, the early primary states mostly look unpromising for him.

Cruz, by contrast, leads the polls in Iowa, which holds the first contest of the season on Feb. 1, and is well-positioned in several other conservative states that hold early contests.

With the stakes high here, the two freshman senators are vying to gain the support of a key voting bloc within the state’s GOP — members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who mostly lined up behind fellow Mormon Mitt Romney in the last two election cycles.

Mormons make up only about 4 percent of the state’s population, but their influence in Nevada’s Republican caucuses is much greater. In 2008 and 2012, members of the church accounted for nearly a quarter of Republican caucusgoers, entrance polls showed.

Both Cruz and Rubio — who attended an LDS church in Las Vegas in his youth — have enlisted politically prominent members of the church, and now the fault line on taxes that split the state’s Republicans this spring and summer has come to the forefront.

Rubio’s side includes prominent backers of the tax increase, aimed at expanding the state’s budget for schools, which Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval pushed through the GOP-controlled Legislature in May and June. The tax hike, the largest in state history, was strongly opposed by a large portion of the Republicans in the Legislature.

Also among Rubio’s backers is Bruce Woodbury, a Mormon and former Clark County commissioner who is so admired in southern Nevada that the I-215 beltway around Las Vegas is named after him.

Four years ago, Woodbury appeared in radio advertisements urging supporters to vote for Romney. He plans a similar effort this cycle for Rubio, working alongside the campaign’s state director, Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison — another prominent Mormon — to build support ahead of the Feb. 23 caucuses.

“An essential factor is winning the election in November,” Woodbury said after a recent Rubio rally in a hotel ballroom a short drive from the Las Vegas Strip. “He has all the essentials: a powerful life story, he’s moderate — he can appeal to all segments of the electorate.”

His son, Boulder City Mayor Rod Woodbury, and two City Council members — all church members — also back Rubio.

Among the leaders of the opposition to the tax increase was Assemblyman Ira Hansen, a Republican who represents Sparks, just east of Reno. Hansen, also a Mormon church member, is now part of Cruz’s state leadership team.

“You see it at the national level and here: Cruz folks are much more conservative than Rubio’s,” said Hansen. “When it comes to social issues, when it comes to tax increases, if you’re a conservative — a true conservative — then Ted Cruz is your candidate.

“I think that Mormons and just Republicans in general want a true conservative who will stand for conservative values in Washington, D.C.,” he said.
Hansen says Rubio’s past support of bipartisan immigration reform, which included a path to citizenship for those in the country illegally, is also a negative for him in the state’s caucuses. It’s an issue on which Cruz has repeatedly assailed Rubio, saying that the Florida senator supports “amnesty” for those who have violated immigration laws.

Rubio’s campaign has two field offices in the state — one in Las Vegas, the other in Reno — and nearly a dozen paid staffers. The Cruz campaign has a similar infrastructure.

Cruz has enlisted Paul Workman, a former bishop in the Mormon church and a member of Romney’s 2012 Nevada finance committee, who says his job is to make sure LDS members know about Cruz’s record as a conservative.

Cruz “talks about his faith with confidence and how it guides him,” Workman said. “There’s a real openness to other faiths that he has. It appeals to me and I’m sure other Mormons as well.”

At a recent religious round table in Las Vegas hosted by the Cruz campaign, Workman spoke with evangelical Christian pastor Rafael Cruz, the Texas senator’s father. The two talked about Mormon doctrine — of salvation, atonement and family — and how to appeal to LDS voters. Workman says he was impressed by the elder Cruz’s knowledge of Mormonism, which he says will help bolster the senator’s LDS support.

Rubio supporters, however, say Cruz’s brand of staunch conservatism will not help the party win in November.

Heidi Wixom, a mother of six, lives a few blocks from a Mormon church in her eastside Las Vegas neighborhood. After rallying behind Romney in the last two elections, she remained torn for much of the summer and fall about which candidate to back. Electability in November was vital in her decision to support Rubio, she said.

“Just being a strong conservative doesn’t help the party,” she said. “You have to have shown you can work alongside Democrats; even if right now that doesn’t seem ideal, it will pay off in the general election.”

 

By: Kurtis Lee, The National Memo, January 2, 2015

January 3, 2016 Posted by | Marco Rubio, Mormons, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Jeb Accuses Trump Of Being A New Yorker”: That’s The Home Of Rich, Snotty Liberals, Ergo, Trump Must Be A Liberal

Jeb Bush complains that the political media have not treated Donald Trump as a serious candidate. They have not dissected Trump’s eclectic stances, which, a new Bush ad contends, show the populist as a fake conservative.

OK. Labor Day is over. Let’s get serious.

Start with that new Bush ad, titled “The Real Donald Trump.”

The ad opens with Trump on TV saying: “I lived in New York City, in Manhattan, all my life, OK? So, you know, my views are a little bit different than if I lived in Iowa.”

Trump is from New York. Who knew? That’s the home of rich, snotty liberals. Ergo, Trump must be a liberal, or so the serious Bush implies.

When it comes time to raise substantial piles of campaign cash, Jeb seems to like New Yorkers just fine. Indeed, he is a frequent flier to the Manhattan till. Last winter, private equity magnate Henry Kravis threw a fundraiser for Jeb at his Park Avenue spread. The price of admission — $100,000 a ticket — raised eyebrows even on Wall Street.

Oh, yes, we’re supposed to talk about Trump’s policy positions.

The Bush ad has Trump saying years ago that the 25 percent tax rate for high-income people should be “raised substantially.” Do note that Ronald Reagan’s tax reforms left the top marginal rate at 28 percent — and after closing numerous loopholes. Also, capital gains were then taxed as ordinary income, meaning the rate for the wealthiest taxpayers was 28 percent. (The top rate is now 23.8 percent.)

Speaking of the tax code, Trump vows to close the loophole on carried interest. It lets hedge fund managers pay taxes on obviously earned income at a lower rate than their chauffeurs pay. “They’re paying nothing, and it’s ridiculous,” Trump says.

A writer at the conservative Weekly Standard recently asked Bush whether he’d end the deal on carried interest. “Ask me on Sept. 9″ was Bush’s noncommittal answer. That’s when he plans to unfurl his tax reform plan.

The ad has a younger Trump coming out for single-payer health care. That sounds a lot like Medicare.

Trump is shown saying he’s pro-choice on abortion. A recent CBS poll had 61 percent of Republicans opposing a ban on abortion, although many want stricter limits.

About Trump’s being a lifelong New Yorker, well, that’s not entirely true. He spends a good deal of quality time in Palm Beach, Florida.

“Donald is a perfect fit for Palm Beach,” Shannon Donnelly, the society editor for the Palm Beach Daily News (aka “The Shiny Sheet”), told me. “He has an office in New York but is rarely there.”

“We’re overdue for Winter White House,” Donnelly added. “We haven’t had one since that guy from Massachusetts [John F. Kennedy] moved in with all his rambunctious siblings.”

Your author cannot sign off without opining that Trump’s crude remarks about Mexicans should disqualify him from becoming president. The Trump ad tying Bush’s rather liberal thoughts on immigration to faces of Mexican criminals who murdered people in this country is rather disgraceful.

But it is not unlike the Willie Horton ad that Bush’s father, George H.W., ran in his 1988 campaign. Horton had raped a woman after being released from a Massachusetts prison on a weekend furlough. The Democratic candidate, Michael Dukakis, was Massachusetts’ governor at the time. The elder Bush’s ads continually flashed Horton’s picture in what many considered a stereotype of a scary black man.

“By the time we’re finished,” Bush campaign manager Lee Atwater said, “they’re going to wonder whether Willie Horton is Dukakis’ running mate.”

Let’s get serious about Trump’s record? Yes, and the same goes for everyone else’s.

 

By: Froma Harrop, The National Memo, September 8, 2015

September 9, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, New York City | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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